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VELEIA

VELEIA (Eth. Veleias, ātis: Ru. near Montepolo), a town of Liguria, situated on the frontiers of Gallia Cisalpina, about 20 miles S. of Placentia (Piacenza), in the hills which form the lower slopes of the Apennines. The Veleiates are mentioned by Pliny among the Ligurian tribes; and in another passage he speaks of “oppidum Veleiatium,” which was remarkable for the longevity of some of its inhabitants (7.49. s. 50). He there describes it as situated “circa Placentiam in collibus,” but its precise site was unknown until its remains were discovered in 1760. From the mode in which these are buried, it seems certain that the town was overwhelmed by a vast landslip from the neighbouring mountain. Systematic excavations on the spot, which have been carried on since 1760, have brought to light several buildings of the ancient city, including the amphitheatre, a basilica, the forum, and several temples: and the great number of bronze ornaments and implements of a domestic kind, as well as statues, busts, &c., which have been discovered on the spot, have given celebrity to Veleia as the Pompeii of Northern Italy. Unfortunately the great weight of the superincumbent mass has crushed in the buildings, so that all the upper part of them is destroyed, and the larger statues have suffered severely from the same cause. The inscriptions found there attest that Veleia was a flourishing municipal town in the first centuries of the Roman Empire. One of these is of peculiar interest as containing a detailed account of the investment of a large sum of money by the emperor Trajan in the purchase of lands for the main tenance of a number of poor children of both sexes. This remarkable document contains the names of numerous farms and villages in the neighbourhood of Veleia, and shows that that town was the capital of an extensive territory (probably the same once held by the Ligurian tribe of the Veleiates) which was divided into a number of Pagi, or rural districts. The names both of these and of the various “fundi” or farms noticed are almost uniformly of Roman origin,--thus affording a remarkable proof how completely this district had been Romanised before the period in question. The Tabula Alimentaria Trajana, as it is commonly called, has been repeatedly published, and illustrated with a profusion of learning, especially by De Lama. (Tavola Alimentaria Veleiate detta Trajana, 4to. Parma, 1819.) A description of the ruins and antiquities has been published by Antolini (Le Rovine di Veleja, Milano, 1819). The coins found at Veleia are very numerous, but none of them later than the time of Probus: whence it is reasonably inferred that the catastrophe which buried the city occurred in the reign of that emperor.

[E.H.B]

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